Evanescent Thoughts

Evanescent Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Its my life’ Category


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What I would remember 2011 for :

  1. Finally hitting the gym after 22 years of ¬†‘relaxing’. Lost 60 pounds over 4 months. Think I can consider that an achievement ? ūüėČ
  2. Interning at Facebook over the summer, working on Freight and finally building something considerable from the scratch. Getting an offer finally after a lot of excitement.
  3. Shaking hands with Mark Zuckerberg over a party at his house. This guy is very different from what was portrayed in the movie.
  4. Living with cousins over the summer and watching Appu (my new born nephew) grow exponentially.
  5. Biking around 1100 miles in California over 12 weeks.
  6. Surprised parents by showing up one fine day at their door step when they were thinking I would come for a video chat. (for anyone else, MUST DO once in your lifetime)
  7. Hiking 13 miles in the Grand Canyon (Havasupai Trail) to find the most gorgeous turquoise-blue waterfall I have ever seen.
  8. Finally, working on the Linux Kernel :).
  9. The Door country trip; How to possibly screw up all the plans and yet have fun.
  10. Buying a Kindle and finally reading some of those books I must have read ages ago .

Written by Sathya Narayanan

January 30, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Facebook Internship

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Statuatory warning : Bear with me if this post is long or boring. Its been a long time since I blogged.

This summer, I interned at Facebook, Palo Alto. It also happened to be my very first experience outside academia, writing code that actually goes to production. I got the offer about a month after I started my graduate studies at Univ of Wisconsin, Madison. I had just moved into the US (late august, 2010)and there was a career fair around that time which I missed attending. A couple of my friends got internships from Qualcomm, but I decided to take some time to settle and then start looking for internships (after all, I had just moved in). Around mid september, facebook had come to college for a giving a talk about memcache. It happened to be that the person who was giving the talk  was a alumni of NIT Trichy and UW Madison. They asked us to forward our resumes if interested and I did. Within few weeks, the recruiting team was on campus again and they had a couple of interviews before offering me an internship. I was so excited that my first interview experience landed me with an offer and to top it off, it was FACEBOOK.

The internship was for 12 weeks, a very competitive offer that I¬†didn’t¬†consider sitting for any more companies. Besides google started their process very late (not that I would have been interested in taking it if I had been¬†offered). ¬†Started my internship on May 23rd. I worked for the Application Operations team under Scott and Alex, ¬†with another fellow intern, Dustin (Alex’s intern). We worked on building a service called Freight ¬†and later another thin layer of abstraction on top of it called PubSub (a brief report about it here) . It was an amazing experience to build something from scratch, have daily scrums, work agile and learn a shit load of new things, and the most important of all, to live and work in the the reality. Here goes a brief description of what happened in the next 12 weeks.

Week 1: Orientation, get your mac books and iPhones ( yes .. interns get brand new iPhone 4), get your dev environment setup, meet with your manager, discuss about the internship. We had a full team meeting discussing about Freight and what problems it should address. I should say Week 1 had my head in a whirlwind. A lot of things were pretty new for me. Though I was a little bit scared, I was happy that I would in the worst case, learn a LOT for sure.

Week 2: Started playing around with rsync and it was wiki¬†time. Did a ¬†_very_ dirty hack to rsync by mid second week to make it work for our end goal. It was so dirty that I dare not speak about it. But it works brilliantly! ¬†Spent most of ¬†the time saying hello to git. I had never worked much with any version control systems and I should say I was confused for half the time. But in the end, everything made sense. Dustin could relate to git since he had experience with other version control systems. So he was my 911 for git trouble. Also some dude stole my bike parked in the San Jose caltrain station ūüėź

Week 3: Dustin was making fast progress with the first draft of Conductor ready and I was understanding the facebook infrastructure and network topology. I had the basic monitoring framework ready. Integrated with the conductor.

Week 4: More scrums, more lines of code. Trains, henchman, shunter etc .. Dustin had a major change in the architecture of conductor and the shunter was born. I was working on anti-spikes. Started working on torrents.

Week 5: More features added to freight and I had the basic throttling framework ready with anti-spikes. Started helping out Dustin with some conductor stuff. Voila! Merge conflicts and git said it was doing a three-way !

Week 6: We sort of had a basic freight working and running ( I remember we did a fist pump). A lot of work was done in process management and clean shutdown by Dustin. Blocking / Non-Blocking servers explored. Had fun. I was also working meanwhile on the first draft of PubSub. Couple of experiments, trying to figure out how to do a cheap check-sum of huge files. Took the weekend off to go to this amazing 127 hour like trek in grand canyon.  (pic below.. also I thought it would be cool to drop a beautiful pic to wake up readers who have reached so far)

Week 7: Dustin started work on PubSub, now that we thought Freight was stable and a we had this long debate on phabricator about one of Dustin’s diffs. It was so long that both our managers never bothered reading it and just asked for summaries in the next scrum ūüėõ

Week 8: Back to Freight, we started putting it to test with some small jobs, figured out a lot of changes need to be done. I discovered that transmission ( our torrent s/w ) had issues running stuff at the scale of our bandwidth. Ran a couple of tests and figured out what the problem was, source dived and fixed it ! It felt great.. was my first significant patch to a open source software. Co-incidentally, happened to be the one I had used countless number of times back in my undegrad for downloading what nots ūüėõ

Week 9: Ran first of Cory’s ¬†jobs. Discovered that more hacks need to be done for transmission ( the ones that cant be pushed upstream). Dustin spent some time working on stuff like peer-caching that was screwed up with our setting in transmission.

Week 10: More jobs for freight. We got couple of dedicated servers to host the service.. ¬†started work on making a front end( not fun at all, Dustin pitched in). Meanwhile, the conductor started freezing occasionally. Culprit being thrift’s python server implementation and python’s GIL causing performance bottlenecks. Mild architecture epiphany.. re design couple of things. ¬†Dustin was working on some bugs in the python thrift server implementation¬†were causing us problems .

Week 11: At this point of time, we had a mashed up version of freight running on the servers. It was a mash-up of hot fixes and the master was out of date for a while. Techincally, this was the last week we were supposed to push code. Making new changes to codebase in the last week was not encouraged.  Persistence was also achieved. Thank God !

Week 12: Last week .. team dinner at SF, final fixes to freight, running big jobs,  still trying to fix a lot of performance issues.. The last day, I realized another major performance bottleneck caused by transmission.. but hardly had time to source dive and think about fixing it . Meanwhile, got offered a full time position..  party time !! Also had to  take a flight to India the next day, showing up without any notice and surprise parents.

In all, it was exactly how I wished my internship would be. Dustin was a great guy to work with. Learnt tons of stuff from him. Though he was an undergrad, he had lots of experience working on stuff. At the end, we hated that we wrote most of it in python. Some small parts of it was written in c++ by  me, so I felt slightly better. One valuable lesson learnt was that, never write thread critical stuff in python .. stick to C/C++.

We touched a great deal of stuff in the course of internship .. the whole experience was overwhelming and Alex and Scott helped us a great deal in figuring out stuff.  We used to have daily scrums to discuss about the current progress and what has to be done next.  I had absolutely no time for anything else.  Rather, should say I didnt find anything else interesting in the course of the internship.

To cheer us up, facebook had a lot of intern events surfing, kayaking, go-karting, scaenger hunts, hiking. We also had a bbq party at Zuck’s house.

Throughout my internship, I never once felt like I was going to work. Its tough to call facebook working environment to be company-like. People go around the office in rip-sticks, have hackathons, work at crazy times on crazy things.. you could see hacks lying around everywhere, both in the code-base and the walls of the so called company. Every one works there because they feel so passionate about what they are doing. In my first week, I felt like every one around me was working 10 times faster than me. Took me a while to get used to it. We had amazing talks given by employees on programming. There was a series of c++ talks that just blew my mind off. I never thought about a language from such a perspective and I ended up knowing that the guy who gave the talk, sits few desks away from me and has a wiki page on him¬†! It was a fun working environment.. interns had their own weekly hackathons on thursdays.. pizzas would arrive sometime past midnight and we would gate crash into zuck’s acquarium ( his room.. more of ¬†a room with glass walls, that looks like an¬†aquarium¬†from the outside when its occupied).. no one had cubicles.. you could just walk to any guy and start a conversation with him.

Food .. need I say ?? Cafe X \m/ .. It was so hard on  me that so much was offered and I had to restrict  myself from grabbing everything and piling it on my plates. I used to bike to work everyday (16 miles up and down) and that seemed to take care of all the desserts consumed everyday.  We had a different cuisine for every meal and friday evenings we had happy hour in the bball court after the Q & A with Zuck in the cafeteria.

I am sure I missed mentioning a ton of other fun stuff that we did .. the timeline might be slightly skewed by +/- 1 week .. My patience to sit and write a blog post has taken a dip, I should say.

Building something from scratch, hacking well known opensource software, pushing code everyday, scrums, whiteboard discussions, learning tons of stuff .. I miss all that now, sitting at home. Cant wait for the next summer and I apologize for the sloppy blog post!

Written by Sathya Narayanan

September 2, 2011 at 2:06 am

The Hyderabad Weekend

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The last time when I visited my cousins at Hyderabad was sometime around my First year. So I planned a small trip with mom over the weekend and it was one of the most exciting weekends for me after coll ended :). Not to forget the adventurous trip on the way back :P. Things that I did :

  1. Did a lot of shopping with cousins. Thanks to Kalapana and Kavitha akka, now 80% of my shopping work is over. We were right on time for the Sales at Lifestyle at In Orbit. I felt like I really did shop something for the first time in my life  (I never did any shopping till I was out of College :P).
  2. Met Srinivas, Abhinav and Mrinal at CCD near Hitec City. Abhinav has become like a hindi film star, mrinal is on race with Ankit to gain weight and Srinivas is all the more fair and handsome ūüėõ . Had a nice time with them though had to run back home quickly as one of ¬†my cousins had to catch a flight to Chennai that evening.
  3. The new airport Ring road is Awesome ! 8 lanes and u can easily go on 140 kmph ūüôā
  4. Went for a Rock and Jazz concert at Mariut Convention Center. This was my first concert if u dont count those we had in Coll during Festember and all. Was pure fun and was a pleasure meeting some of my cousin’s close friends :).
  5. Karthik picked me up on the way back at 12 in the night and went to his home :). NR and co were already there and Naga sir arrived early in the morning ūüėõ .. Tirth too came all the way at 1 in the night ¬†and we had a nice chit chat till around 3 in the morning :). Not to forget the Zaveri call and the Hyderabadi briyani at some 2 in the night ūüôā
  6. Spent the whole of next day at cousins place. Beautiful house .. .given that my cousin is an Interior Designer herself :).  I was always scared of dogs as pets. But I found  Deva aka the Lazy Labrador very very friendly. He nibbled me a couple of times and that was it. Such a cute one :).
  7. Went for lunch with family at ¬†Mainland China. Went to the same one at Banglore few weeks back with Suren and co and guess what I am back :P. This one in Hyd had a better Chineese¬†ambiance¬†and the food was better too ūüôā
  8. Got a Leather jacket on the way back and visited a Harley Davidson Show room. Some day , I shall own one ūüôā
  9. Went on a Ride on the New Royal Enfield Classic 500 that Ramesh uncle got . It was so stud !! I always felt that bullets were more appealing to me than bikes(even the racing ones.. earlier on the same day , balu let me drive his R15 ).
  10. Got back on a train and reached Chitoor only to find that I am supposed to cross Andhra border and reach my home ¬†through some weird way cos it was a State wide Bandh for Chandrababu Naidu’s Arrest. And this area seemed to be a TDP stronghold and they blocked all roads that led to city outskirts and TN border. Not even Cars were let to passby. Only emergency vehicles and 2 wheelers were allowed to pass. Had to take 2 autos to cross 2 such barricades ( the auto guys were also afraid to go cos they were asked strictly not to take on public transport). Cost me some 350 bucks to cross some 12 kms. On the last barricade at the check post at TN border, nothing worked and the auto guy also gave up. We walked all the way across the border with those heavy shopping bags. Luckily some nice guy gave me and my mom lift on a Hero Honda ( yes !! ¬†we had no other option left ). So Triples it was. Me and my mom clinging on to that¬†metallic¬†fixtures on the back so that we dont fall off :P. Some how reached home after some 5 tensed hours ūüôā

A great weekend in all … A memorable one too . Thanks to my cousins ūüôā

Written by Sathya Narayanan

July 20, 2010 at 9:50 am

Posted in general, Its my life, Trips

My days at Theoretical Comp Sci Lab @ IIT-M (TCS Lab)

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I have been wanting to write this post for a very long time. The reason being simple enough, It changed a ¬†lot in my life. When I joined fresh at NIT Trichy and completed my first year, I was more into programming and algorithms. Used to sit in I-Lab and do some of those SPOJ problems( yeah!! when I was in First year, I-Lab was good and it¬†wasn’t¬†filled with gultis watching videos on¬†you tube¬†and orkuting ). At that point of time, I was more interested into getting a Stud job once I complete my college. But now after 4 years at NIT-Trichy, I am dropping ¬†an offer to join Cisco and heading for Masters at Univ of Wisconsin Madison. I can attribute all of it to Prof Pandurangan and his TCS Lab ¬†ūüôā .

Akhil and myself were on the same boat looking for profs to do project work on back in 4th Sem. I was more inclined to do an internship sort of thing at some startup or some small company but was also looking out on the academic sides. One afternoon, when we were busy spamming the inboxes of many such IIT Profs, Akhil mentioned ¬†about Prof Pandurangan and ¬†told me how his papers regularly appear in ACM’s Conf. And thats when I started mailing him and was fortunate enough to get his reply. Later he came down to our college( he was in the Board that certifies the Departments for some approval) for an official visit and said he would talk with all those interested in taking up internships at TCS lab. We were greatly amused by the way his lecture just kept us hooked on to the topic. One year into the department, I never felt like I was actually learning something new and exciting until I was attending his lecture(yes!! Mohan was taking a course in both the sems that year :P). ¬†And thats when I decided to try out the internship and was very happy when he accepted to host a couple of us at IITM :).

So began the wonderful days at IITM TCS lab. The first time , some 8 of us were working under him and unfortunately he could only let us into the lab and not into the IIT M hostels :). So myself and Akhil stayed in the classrooms of KV School. The School was closed for vacations and we had the whole big black board all for us to scribble. Though technically, I should say we stayed at the Lab for 75% of the time in a day :).  TCS Lab was more than what we expected, given the condition of Labs at NITT( the 3rd semester, we didnt even have the labs ready and the next sem, I remember the server crashing most of the time :P) .

This was also when we were being taught what research work is. Until then I had no clue what it was to get a publication, a peer review, do a survey, Proof techniques etc. And a whole new exciting world of things was thrown at me. The ¬†first time, I spent my time mostly reading papers and getting to know my area well. Akhil, myself and Bharathwaj(from IITB, a engg physics Student) were assigned to work on Multi Party Computation and Information Theoretic Security. In Research, you get excited when you know that the stuff you are working on is barely a few years old and there is a lot of scope for Research work. ¬†Also Prof Pandurangan was taking a summer course on Algorithms and it was a Bliss!!. Till date, I havent enjoyed any class as much as I have enjoyed sitting in his classes :). Unlike other guys from my coll who were working on ¬†Provable Security and trying to write a Survey, Prof let us work on a Problem right away :). We had to solve couple of Round Complexities in VSS and most of the day , it would be sitting in the TCS Lab and discussing if this works or that works with Akhil and Bharath(also a bit of chatting online with college friends and visiting the canteen freq :P). Bharathwaj was a step ahead of me and Akhil and always had a clear idea of whats wrong and whats right :). He helped me a lot in figuring out few mistakes too. ¬†Whenever, we had a small idea we thought would work, we would run to Arpita and Ashish , who were doing ¬†PhD under Prof. Now these two deserve more than a special thanks from me cos, I¬†haven’t¬†seen some one so dedicated as them :). In fact, whenever I consider my self if I have to do a PhD in future, I ll be weighing myself against them to check if I am ready :).

The one thing about TCS Lab is that you can find a lot of interesting people to discuss and chit chat including Prof Pandurangan. He would come around the labs, chatting with each one about his work in progress and crack a joke that would have us all in splits :). ¬†He would also tell us what it takes to get a good publication out of students.After a few interactions with him, I was more than convinced to not just stop with B-Tech and get a stud job, but to definitely do a Masters. ¬†Back then, the Lab would be full with so many ¬†students that people who walk past the corridor, would mistake the place where we keep our foot wear for a shop that sells footwear :P. And some or the other old Student of Prof would visit the lab, not to forget the box of sweets that come with them. We had a tradition in TCS lab that who ever gets sweets for Prof ¬†[which according to records, he never touches ūüėČ ], also gets a box of them for the lab inmates. All this experience with the Lab was something I could never dream of getting at NITT :). I dont think any Prof would comeback at Ten in the night to the lab and have discussions till late midnight at NITT ( many of them dont even come to dept in the day time !).

After our first internship, we were extended the opportunity to continue ¬†working in the winter also. Prof was always insistent on making us¬†realize¬† how Research is not a one-summer-outing thing. I still tell my juniors who are onto doing research project the same thing. Don’t think of it as a Summer Project or something you get to do for getting a Certificate. ¬†A certificate can get you nothing in my opinion. So I said to myself, that I am not gonna give up unless I get a good publication out of this. Also Aishwarya and Anugrah joined me during the winter and we were looking at a new set of problems, hoping to solve them. By the end of it, I almost got some results and it so happened to be the new year eve. ¬†During my ¬†6th sem, I was mostly spending my time writing the paper for submission when one fine day, Arpita and Ashish spotted ¬†a flaw in it :). And it rest there until the next summer when I went back to lab.

This time, I was totally working on a diff prob, AMPC. And suddenly one evening, I got an idea for the proof to work around the flaw in my previous result. Finally I had a perfect working one(though it was a very simple solution). And Prof wanted to send it for CANS 09 ¬† which had the submission deadline in ¬†a week or so. So once again we were off to writing the protocols, changing a lot of stuff from old paper, adding new.. And we had a 23 page paper for a conf that allowed only 18 pages with appendix :P. And this is when Arpita and Ashish clearly demonstrated to us how many papers they have successfully authored. The draft before Arpita and Ashish did the corrections looked so amateurish. We had no idea what point to highlight and what to leave it for the reader to understand himself. ¬†Using notations, skipping unwanted statements and proofs… learnt lots from them:). My desktop would have draft_1 draft_2 … and so on :P. We worked till some 2 in the labs. Did a lot of night-outs in lab (never heard of students even using labs outside the lab hours back in NITT). It felt exciting and like a whole diff world to me :). ¬†Later in August, we were delighted when the paper got accepted. Should thank Sharmi and Vivek too for all those night outs. We used to go to Basera at 2 in the night after doing all the corrections to paper. At times, Sharmi n Vivek’s 2 yr old son Shvithin would come to lab and play around. Such a delight to watch prof and him talk :).

All this made me transform from a guy who aspired to get into a Stud company back in 3rd Sem ¬†to a guy who wanted to go for higher studies by the end of 6th Sem. ¬†Ironically, Akhil on the other hand who ¬†wanted to end up doing research at the end of coll back then ¬†is now heading to join Facebook :). ¬†I still have no idea what it would have been if I hadn’t gone down this path but I am sure it would have been less exciting for me :). The admits that I got would never have been possible if not for Prof’s motivation and support:). ¬†I owe it all to TCS lab , Prof ¬†Pandurangan , and my other friends over there( Its actually a big list ūüėõ ). Those late night chats, running from TCS Lab – I to TCS Lab – II whenever we have something to discuss with Arpita and Ashish, Prof always trying to kalachify Shriram and Kalai, running to the Staff canteen for tea/cofee/icecream/lunch, the stay at KV school, latex work, Seminars, Prof’s jokes, Treats.. a long list of things I ll be missing when I go to Wisc Mad ūüôā

Written by Sathya Narayanan

July 16, 2010 at 10:24 am

A Memorable Senti Weekend

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If I had to recollect, say ten years later, a memorable week end I had, I would point out to this blog post :).¬† The plan started initially as a black thunder plan and owing to the usual¬† dropping out of people for “Busy” reasons, got transformed to the Power Lunch plan.¬† Normally¬† we would¬† shift to our usual back up plans of going to buhari or selvam for lunch and call it as an week end, but me and Archit were so frust with things going this way each and every time¬† and wanted to have a nice memorable week end :).

So Archit, me,¬† VI , Venki and Susan started it with the Power Lunch at Sangam ūüôā . Why we refer to it as the power lunch dates back to fifth semester incident when me and Bur and couple of others went to Sangam for the first time :P.¬† The usual sangam power lunch results in we cribbing to others that we are not gonna eat for another 2 days but this day, we talked so much that at the end of buffet, we felt like we haven even tried half of the dishes over there :P. By this time, Venki was shivering ( yes !!! in this hot trichy, this guy finds sitting in AC uncomfortable ūüėõ ) and we left :). And we had no clue what we were supposed to do till evening, so took an auto and headed straight to Kalaiarangam for “Paiya” movie.¬† Though the movie was a normal one, the analogies brought out by VI to incidents happening around, made us pinned to our seats till the end and have a nice time :).

Initial plan was to return after movie, but then, we still felt there was more to the evening and headed straight to the Reliance Food Court where Su was supposed to go for a treat :).¬† Happily sat there, watched the Mumbai match and surprised a couple of girls by having a good dinner even after coming back from sangam lunch :P. Was surprised by Mr Mage turning up with a girl company ūüėČ and we left at around 7 and got back to coll :).

VI was too enthu to go for a walk and hence we went on the BIG walk around the campus going beyond opal :D.¬† Went to the temple and this is when things got Wierd. Every damn thing archit tried to say inside the temple ended up happening:P . He says “Bloody Director” and he comes there in few minutes. He asks for Prasad and people come all the way to us and gfve us :P. We had no clue how but it was sort of fun to think things were like happening as and when Archit said something :P.¬† After the temple we kept walking and talking all the way back to Garnet. Tired from the walk, headed straight to Aavin and back to room. Thought I was done for the day and watched a movie and got up in betweent to fetch water from cooler and on the way see Archit and Nami sitting on the corridor near the GToL (Garnet Tree of Love) and talking :D. One look and u knw Nami was high. And then we started talking about things and people joined :D. We five of us ( Archit, Me , Venki , Vi and Nami) laughed our hearts out on various incidents and mainly when Nami blabbers something funny. Nami who was initially high, was almost clear by the time Archit told him all the incidents that he had no clue about :D. And then we kept talking and suddenly it was 4am in the morning. Took a Bike and off we were to Thiruverumbur for Refreshments( Tea + Bun) . Such a wonderful feeling to have done a night out, talking and then you get hot tea with bun at the end of it :D. Praveen joined now and now we were off to the first year times :). Finally some one reminded us that it was time to sleep and I go to bed.

To my surprise, the news paper was at my door steps at 5 in the morning .For the first time,¬† I was like reading the newspaper before going to bed :P. I wake up the next morning and Nami gives a pleasant surprise by¬† cooking us an awesome lunch ūüėÄ ( 4Kgs of Chicken Curry). Had one of¬† the best ever lunches, sitting in a room and eating with friends.

With loads of things happening, it was a nice time to sit and talk with friends,  with cherished memories :). None of us could forget this nightout for all the stuff we talked about and all the truths that people ended up knowing :D.  I never thought I would get senti and write a post about it by the end of the coll :).

Written by Sathya Narayanan

April 21, 2010 at 1:36 am

Group Pic at CANS 2009

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I like this pic.. spot me ūüôā

Written by Sathya Narayanan

January 15, 2010 at 9:59 am

CANS 2009 at Kanazawa, Japan

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Last winter was the first time I had crossed south India, to attend the ACM-ICPC Asia Regionals at Kanpur and this Winter turns out to be yet another memorable one with me travelling outside India, the first time,  for attending the 8th International Conference on Cryptology and Network Security (CANS 2009) held at Kanazawa, Japan. My paper was selected  in the conference and I was  funded by the conference for presenting it (thanks to them, my first international tour was funded :P). I was all excited because this was the first time I would be flying in an aeroplane. Flying on an aeroplane had always been on my list of to-do things and it was really great to have made it before I finished my college :). So I was all set to start my trip on 9th December. I had completed my apping process well ahead to give some cushion time for preparing for the conference and  do some winter shopping.

8th December :

My parents were the most excited to see me board the flight at Bengaluru. We started from home and had a nice 4 hour drive to Bengaluru Airport. Went to my cousin’s house and picked her up¬† too :). If it wasnt for my cousin, we would have really struggled to find the route to airport in Banglore. My flight was scheduled at 00.30 hrs on 10th morning and I was at airport arnd 2100hrs on 9th. I was mainly worried about the customs check as I was carrying both my hard disks with me¬† ( about 600 GB plus of movies and TV series ūüėõ ). There was a big sigh of relief on my side when they didnt check my stuff. Connected to the Wifi at aiport and bid good byes to all my friends and then I remembered that I hadnt taken my lan cable.

9th December:

Boarded my flight(Thai Airways)m and there I was taking my first flight :). Didnt feel anything during the take off, but had some problem with my ear whenever the plane makes a landing. I had to change my flights at Bangkok and was again online from the Wifi. Bankok airport was big with chinky girls were going here and there :P. I boarded my next flight to Kansai and this one had to stop inbetween at Manila for half an hour and then finally landed in Kansai at around 7.00pm local time. So I had three take offs and three landings in my first plane trip :D. Not to forget the food and the Thai airhostess :P. They kept asking me “Do you want scotch or wine or rum?? ” .. If only I was used to drinking :P. Drank loads of¬† juices , watched a couple of movies and then I was finally in Japan. Kansai was cold and raining a bit. We checked into Hotel Seagull. They had arranged for a pickup from the airport and I¬† totally loved the Kansai International Airport. It is located on an artificial island and connected to mainland by bus and trains. So when the plane lands, it looks really awesome like landing on a ship or something :D. I was so tired of the journey. Since it was my first plane journey, I didnt sleep at all. So I was almost awake for around 48 hours. Checked into the hotel and slept off.

10th December :

The actual plan was to get up at 9 and look around Kansai. But I actually got up at 12.30 and by the time I was ready, it was around 3 in the evening. And then we were off to Universal Studios, Japan (USJ). Took a train from one of the stations closer to the hotel and reached the airport and then took at JR pass for roaming around. Train are costly in Japan( well they are not the only ones that are costly. Everything is costly in japan). It was a ten minute travel in local train and it cost some 410 JPY( about 205 INR). Reached USJ at around 5 in the evening at realised it would be open only till 8 in the evening.There was some twilight pass for discount and we grabbed them and started looking around. Went for couple of adventure rides and really loved it :).  I  especially liked the Holywood Adventure ride and The Spiderman Ride. Came out and was happy to see a Mc D. That reminds me to tell u something as a precaution for Indians coming to Japan and especially gultis who are used to hot and spicy food. Japan food is colourful and looks  delicious but no spice at all . Not even a bit. So I mostly kept myself to Mc D that I frequently found at all the palces. Japanese people are so friendly. They dont talk english much. But whatever be the case, they be so polite and explain you in the best possible way. Something I admired in them. And they eat less and no spice in their food is the reason I guess they manage to stay very  healthy. I never could spot a fat woman in my whole journey. So after USJ, we were all set to go back. Took a train from USJ to Nishikoju and had to change trains from there to Airport and reach my hotel from there. But we were lost in between at Tennoji when  we got into the wrong train. I realised it half way the wrong route and had to change trains, come back and board the right one. Was really exciting because train s ervice stops here at 12.00 in the night and starts again at 4.00 in the morning. So we had to rush really and get on to the last trains at all the stations:). That pretty much was my first day in Japan. I loved the trains and the people.

11th December :

After a day in Kansai, I was headed to Kanazawa where the conference was set to take place  from 12th Р14th  December. I had to go back to airport and pick a local train to Osaka and then board a superfast train Thunderbird  bound to Kanazawa. People were so organized here. You could travel in reserved compartments for the same cost as long as the seats are empty the train was so fast. Went through lots of tunnels enroute Kanazawa and one of them was like some 10km  long . Reached Kanazawa around 4.00 in the evening and being the northern part of Japan, this was more colder than Kansai. Checked into the Hotel Toyoko Inn РKorinbho. The room was just awesome with a spectacular view from the seventh floor.

12th December :

This was the first day of the conference. The conference was at Ishikawa Prefectural Museum and was a 10 min walk from that hotel. After having my breakfast, I was headed¬† to the conference. Did the registration and my presentation was in the first session. So met my Session Chair Prof Mark Manulis and it all began. The presentation went well and we were¬† set to have the lunch at the Kenrokuen Garden. This is one one the oldest of most buetiful gardens in Japan. It has the oldest fountain which doesnt use any motors but only the natural difference in the water pressure. The garden was so spectacular and amazing. I clicked a lot of Pics and we had a group Photoshoot. And then we were served traditional food in one of the restaurants inside the garden. This was the first time I had to eat with chopsticks. By now, I had made a good rapport with Jorge Nakahara ( whom I initially thought was a student, but turned out to be one of the session chairs in the final day ūüėõ ). There were cofee breaks in between the sessions and this was the time to interact with different people.¬† Not to forget the awesome donuts :). They made sure we had around 10 varieties each day. Before lunch, we had one of the invited talks from Prof Adam Smith from Penn State University. In the evening, we were headed to Excel Hotel Tokyo where¬† our first banquets was hosted. It was so grand and there was so much variety of food and drinks. They served the traditional Sake in a traditional wooden cup. Met a lot of new folks again, one of them being Prof Adrian Perrig from CMU. Had a nice interesting chat and one of the Professors made a nice dinner speech. It was a speech to explain¬† the sake brewing. It was stored in a wooden barrel which had to broken open with hammer. So some of us were called on stage to do the breaking and¬† there was a funny presentation on how to break the barrel in the lines of breaking a cryptographics scheme. People were literally rolling on floors with laughter on hearing the dinner speech and some like Prof Perrig excalaimed saying “This was the best dinner speech I have ever seen” . After the dinner we had a ‘gagaku’ ensemble performance. Gagaku is the oldest classical music in Japan, and it s performed at the Imperial Court or temples and shrines for several centuries. It was traditional and elegant. Returned back to room at around 11 in the night after a lot more interaction. Talked to the CMU prof about applying to CMU and he was positive and gave some nice pointers.

13th December :

The second day of conference. Again awesome donuts during all the cofee breaks and nice talks.¬† We had a invited talk by Prof Adrian Perrig from CMU and the second banquet. This one was about a 45 min drive from conference venue and they had chartered buses. It was a Wataya menu. The food that was served to us was made from rare ingredients taken from adjacent mountains and places. They cooked fish¬† in the farmer style. Fresh water fish cooked on fire was interesting but again no spice :P. After the banquet, there was a traditional taiko drum performance ‘Gomando Taiko’. The players were dressed in farmer-style clothing. It was composed of two parts: drum for joy and drum for exorcism. It was an unique and courageous performance with the tradition of 1300 years. We were headed back to hotel in the same busses. Met a lot more people over the lunch.Went for shoopping in the afternoon after lunch. This supposedly is my first venture at shopping by myself. Was fun and the shops here¬† have a great collection. Bought lots of stuff to take back home and for friends.

14th December :

The final day of CANS 2009 and I met Prof Josef Pieprzyk. My paper solved the same problem in Information Theoretic Setting that¬† his students had solved it in cryptographics settings. It was really nice talking to him¬† and kept telling me about his trip to India for one of the Indocrypts.¬† And then he introduced me to Prof Yvo Desmedt from University College, London. He is an exciting researcher with lots of energy and enthusiasm at a very old age. Cofee breaks were more of interaction with people and I really loved talking and getting to know new people. In one of the breaks, there was this guy Jerry Ray who came and introduced himself as the CEO of Secure Age. Its an MNC with various offices at San Francisco and lots of places( which I dont remember now). He was here to meet people and look for some new ideas for his company. He recently seems to have started a new office in Tokyo and invited me :). He was so nice to offer me his card and asked me to call¬† whenever I come to Tokyo or was interested in doing an internship :). Lunch and Banquets were the interaction times :). During banquets, it was so informal with professors telling about their wifes and lifes :P.On how they met their wifes and life changed after it :P. It was nice listening to them :). We also had a inivted talk on this day from Craig Gentry. His talk was “Computing on Encrypted Data” and it was more on my lines except that I was working with a the same problem on different approach. Really liked his talks and got soem new ideas to work on. Later met him and had a chat over lunch. Went for more shopping as the conference ended. By now I had almost spent my 46000 JPY that I brought with me :P.

15th December :

We were supposed to check out of the hotel today and had no idea what to do after that. So I checked out and¬† went out to check out more places in and around. Went to the Kanazawa Castle Park and it was awesome. Came back to hotel and was drinking loads of cofee from the cofee vending machines. Though I had checked out, they let me stay in the lobby(where there was free wifi again :P). Left to Kansai Airport on Thunderbird train at around 6 in the evening and spent the rest of time at the airport, online. I hadnt slept the whole night. Kept chatting with some or the other guy online ūüėõ and downloading too :P.

The Trip Experience :

Looking back, I definitely feel like coming back to Japan with my friends and roaming around. Though with Indian food packed ūüėõ and loads of cash. Cheap shopping is an oxymoron in Japan :P. Apart from these, I really liked the Japanese people. You look into some one, be it a guy or¬† a girl irrespective of the age, they will slightly bow their head and wish you.¬† And one more notable thing over here is that life is very peaceful. I havent seen any political chaos or stickers at any of these places. Everything is well organized though. I asked a friend of mine who is studying in Japan about the politics and how people manage to stay low on politics and he replied saying he has been here for about 6 months and is yet to figure that out :P.

The conference was exciting indeed and so was the hospitality. The steering commitee announced that this was the biggest CANS ever and the best organized one with lots of notable people attending.¬† Turns out that I was the only undergraduate here and every one seems to be surprised on when they ask me “So which area are u working for ur PhD ? ” and I reply saying I an undergraduate. Met loads of people .. French, American, Egypt, Germany, Italy American, Mexican, Australian, British, Japanese, Chineese couple of folks from Microsofy Research USA, IBM Research, AT&T labs and¬† private corporates.¬† Got to know about their local traditions :D. I am really happy that my first conference turned out to be so amazing. And not to forget, I got the proceedings in which my paper appears. Its LNCS book no 5888 pages 21-40 :D.¬† My only disappointment being that I didnt stay there till it started snowing :(. Looks like its due snow 3 days after my departure. Happy memories and I am looking forward to the Bombay trip to RK’s home next week with a gang of 11 ūüėÄ . And finally, thanks a lots to all those people who helped me in the travel preps. My cousins Veni and Vandhana gave me so much tips that I almost felt comfortable venturing out :D. And to sudharshan from Japan who helped me a lot in getting to know stuff here and giving me¬† his voip ūüėÄ . I called up all my friends back home and did some thing funny too :P(more on tht later). Thanks for the CANS commitee for the funding and Prof C Pandurangan for¬† giving me all these opportunities :).

Kanazawa is a beautiful place to visit and especially the Kenrokuen garden and the Castle Park. Kanzawa literally translates to¬† “gold land” and u can see a lots of shops selling gold artifacts and leafs. A great place to shop if u have enough money :P.¬† A mix of modernity with natural surrounding. Thank to CANS 09 for choosing this venue. The next CANS is set to take place in Malaysia :).

Written by Sathya Narayanan

December 20, 2009 at 6:03 pm